Saturday, June 18, 2011

Too Much?

Santa Cruz Randonneurs 400k, April 16, 2011
Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs 600k pre-ride, April 21, 2011

From the experience of the last four years, I know that I can recover from a 600 within a week and ride 600 km distances safely on consecutive weekends. So, a relatively easy 400 like the Santa Cruz Monterey Bay shouldn't do any harm a week after the San Diego 600 (even though it was the hardest). And I don't think it did.

I knew the route quite well and progressed steadily. In the evening, on the way to Gonzales, I connected with Mick J. and we rode most of the way back to the finish together, picking up three other riders on the way. While Mick was dissatisfied with his finishing time of 20 hours (and this was with nursing a bad tendinitis in his ankle!), I was more than happy with it and didn't mind dropping off on the last miles and losing a handful of additional minutes, mainly due to stop lights.

Originally, I then had the PCH Randos April 29 600k brevet on my calendar. This would have left nearly two weeks for recovery - more than enough. But, being in retirement, I decided to follow up on an old promise and offer volunteering instead. In exchange, I would get an opportunity to do the "Workers Ride" - which started on Wednesday evening, barely three days after the finish of the 400k! Oh well - that's going to be a good stress test ...

The event master Vickie had designed an attractive and challenging route with start, rest stop and finish in Lompoc, and an overnight arrangement in San Luis Obispo:

Day 1

Day 2

We were only three at the start on Wednesday evening 9 p.m.: Vickie and Tom R. on their recumbents, and myself on the only non-recumbent. This made drafting less rewarding for me and challenged me on downhills, but put less pressure on me on the uphills. Regardless, all in all we were pretty well matched, worked well together and had a great time through the night ...

... until the rain started, shortly after midnight. In order to avoid halting our little group, I did not put on my protection against getting wet feet, which I would regret bitterly later. When we arrived at the San Luis Obispo Denny's control around 3 a.m., we were thoroughly soaked and chilled. It was easy to stay longer than reasonable before getting back on the route and climbing Cuesta grade with more rain, some mechanical mishaps and other reasons to extend stops and prevent forward motion. Later in the morning, the sun came out and we had some very nice riding through the back-country, although my feet stayed wet and uncomfortably cold. Also, on the hillier portions, I made the experience (new to me) of waiting for my companions, whereas I didn't always succeed in following them into the wind when the road was flat or downhill (in which case they waited for me). We did not run out of time relative to the control closure times (although we were sometimes a little too close for comfort); however, I was seriously worried that our slow progress did not provide the cushion I was counting on to make a necessary second-night sleep stop (after riding through the first night without sleeping), where I could also change into dry socks and generally warm up my cold feet.

Serious headwind towards Cambria cost more time, and in addition, the windchill got more and more bothersome as the sun went down on the way back to Morro Bay. I started feeling sickly (scratchy throat, feverish) while cursing the cold feet, and realized that my endurance reserves were running low. Was this the consequence of not recovering enough from the hard San Diego 600, and adding a 400 just four days earlier instead?  I was riding alone for a while at that time, because Vickie and Tom had stopped to add layers (I had put on everything I had earlier already); and so I had time to come up with ways of rationalizing the upcoming "DNF" decision. The real kicker was not the fact that I felt uncomfortable, cold and weak; it was that there would be no time left for a sleep and warm-up stop in San Luis Obispo, and that I did not want to go into a second night without sleep, for safety reasons.

When I got together with Vickie and Tom again in the Morro Bay area, it turned out that Vickie had called her husband already to pick her up - she had suffered earlier in the afternoon from sleep deprivation symptoms already. Tom, however, was determined to finish: he needed this 600 for his PBP qualification. He expected me to stay with him at least until the San Luis Obispo area (from where I would fork off to reach my "home base" in Shell Beach with Ghislaine and friend Yolande); but when we took off, two things happened: a) I realized I was unable to hold his pace on even slight uphills; b) I picked up a staple in my rear tire and punctured. Tom understood that waiting for me would definitely compromise his goal and reluctantly rode on. (He succeeded to complete the 600 km within the time limit, riding through two essentially sleepless nights!)

I was lucky that my "sickly" feelings that pushed me to abandon didn't have any consequences, and that I was in good shape to go from there babysitting for a week in Los Angeles (grandsons!), and to come back for volunteering activities at the official 600k brevet on April 29 - 30. I hope I can get back onto this route some time in the future!

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